In “A Wizard of Earthsea,” the protagonist Ged grows from overconfidence to maturity as the tale progresses, turning him into a wiser and humbler man.
Ged, a boy with magical talent, appears overly eager to display his skills to anyone who doubts him. Upon meeting the Lord of Re Albi’s daughter near the beginning of the story, Ged feels “a desire to win her admiration” and to get her to praise him (20). At her interest, he casually discusses difficult powers—for example, summoning spirits or changing forms—as if they are simple and trivial, and “he [falls] to boasting again,” despite not knowing whether he could do them or not (21). His attempts to appear knowledgeable are tested, however, when she asks him to do one of the spells. She asks him tauntingly if he is scared to try, and this question brings out more than ever his desire to impress her; “he [will] not endure” having her think that he could not do something, or, even worse, he could not have her think that he was afraid (22). He quickly goes to get a book of spells, the girl’s “mockery always in his mind” (22). Though inwardly afraid, he tries to call back spirits, doing what he later learns is a terrible spell (22). The readers see that Ged is obsessed with what people think of him; he is determined to show them that he has amazing skill, no matter what.
However, when Ged meets the girl again years later, he portrays a different attitude toward magic. She shows him the Terrenon stone, a stone of terrible power, and he “[stands] dumb and wary” as he looks at it rather than with fascination (115). She asks him to touch it because of the stone’s great power, but he refuses, aware that “she might … [be] testing him” (115). This time it does not bother him if he cannot do what she asks; he does not fall for the temptation of touching the stone. In his youth, Ged was overly concerned with how many spells he could do and how talented he could appear to others. Here, however, he realizes that people should not play around with dangerous and powerful forms of magic. He seems not to care if she scorns him, as shown when she asks him if he “fear[s] the stone” (115). He tells her that he does fear it, and this simple statement proves more than anything else his change of attitude. When he was young, Ged could not stand the thought of people thinking he was afraid of powerful magic. As he matured, however, Ged realized that such dangerous forms of magic ought to be feared, not adored, and that true magical skill was found in a person who knew this fact. Ged resists touching the Terrenon, and through his wiser attitude toward magic and his newfound humility, he saves himself from whatever terrible power would have come out of the stone.